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Separation of Powers

I. Separation of powers – The

Madisonian Model
II. Thwarting the Tyranny of the
 The framers of the Constitution believed
that human nature was self-interested and
that economic inequality was the principal
source of political conflict. Many of them
felt that the non-wealthy majority would
tyrannize the wealthy minority if given
political power. To prevent the possibility
of a “tyranny of the majority”, James
Madison proposed the following:
 Place as much of the government as possible
beyond direct control of the majority
 Separate the powers of different intuitions
 Construct a system of checks and balances
III. Limiting Majority Control
1. Madison believed that to thwart
tyranny of the majority, it was
essential to keep most of the
government beyond their control.
 The House of Representatives was
placed within direct control of the
votes of the majority
 State legislatures were to elect
 Special electors were to select the
III. Limiting Majority Control
1. Government officials would be selected
by a small minority, not by the people
 The president was to nominate judges
 The majority could not enact policies without
the agreement of the Senate and the
 The Constitution gave judges lifetime tenure
and senators terms of six years, with only
one-third elected every two years. Members
of the House of Representatives were to be
elected every two years.
IV. Separating Powers
1. The Madisonian scheme
provided for a separation
of powers. The three
branches of government
 The Executive branch
 The Legislative branch
 The Judicial branch
2. Each branch would be
relatively independent,
preventing any one
branch form controlling
the others.
3. The Constitution does
not divide power
absolutely; rather, it
shares it among the
three institutions.
V. Creating Checks and Balances
1. Because powers were not completely separate, each branch
required the consent of the others for many of its actions. This
created a system of checks an balances that reflected Madison’s
goal of setting power against power to constrain governmental
 The Executive branch:
 The president can veto congressional legislation
 The president nominates judges

 The Legislative Branch:

 Congress approves presidential nominations and controls the budget. It
can pass over the president’s veto and can impeach the president and
remove him from office
 The Senate confirms the president’s nominations
 Congress can impeach judges and remove them from office
 The Judicial Branch:
 The Court can declare presidential acts unconstitutional
 The Court can declare laws unconstitutional.
2. Madison reasoned that if a faction seized on institution, it could
not damage the whole system.